116 million Europeans could face poverty conditions as a result of the drive toward austerity in most of the region. 40 million are already suffering from “severe material deprivation.” This depression invariably breeds calls for radical change, as the status quo social order is increasingly viewed as a failure. Therefore, it’s no surprise that nationalism, often ugly nationalism, is on the comeback trail in Europe. This has been happening for some time, particularly with respect to anti-immigrant sentiment. But the European crash has empowered the far right – particularly in Greece, with the rise of Golden Dawn.
You can hear it from blocks away: the deafening beat of Pogrom, Golden Dawn’s favourite band, blasting out of huge speakers by a makeshift stage. “Rock for the fatherland, this is our music, we don’t want parasites and foreigners on our land…”
Tonight is the opening of the Golden Dawn office in Megara, a once prosperous farming town between Athens and Corinth. The Greek national socialist party polled more than 15% here – double the national average – in the June election, when it won 18 seats in parliament. (One was taken up by the former bassist with Pogrom, whose hits include Auschwitz and Speak Greek Or Die.)
Legitimised by democracy and by the media, Golden Dawn is opening branches in towns all over Greece and regularly coming third in national opinion polls. Its black-shirted vigilantes have been beating up immigrants for more than three years, unmolested by the police; lately they’ve taken to attacking Greeks they suspect of being gay or on the left. MPs participate proudly in the violence. In September, three of them led gangs of black-shirted heavies through street fairs in the towns of Rafina and Messolonghi, smashing up immigrant traders’ stalls with Greek flags on thick poles.
Not only have these attacks not been prosecuted, but there’s credible reason to believe that Golden Dawn has infiltrated the Greek police and the judiciary. So the attacks are likely to continue.
This is the inevitable consequence of a country experiencing a major financial shock, and a distancing effect between the citizens and the country’s policies. Golden Dawn has at least partially captured the sentiments of a chunk of the country through community social spending to help those in need. When international creditors run the government, the public will begin to demonize international creditors and by association, foreigners of any type.
It’s true that Syriza, the party of the left in Greece, has more adherents than Golden Dawn in Greece for the time being. But the rise of an openly fascist organization should be troubling to anyone, especially if it’s a sign of things to come.